The elegant capital of Scotland is the second most populous city in the country and the seat of the Scottish Parliament. On the 18th century, as the major player of the Scottish Enlightenment, Edinburgh was nicknamed as the “Athens of the North” by its people and for a long time the city and Glasgow rivals on cultural superiority.
The city was home of many notable people like the writers Robert Louis Stevenson, creator of Treasure Island, Walter Scott, creator of Rob Roy and the economist Adam Smith. In 2004 Edinburgh was declared the first UNESCO City of Literature.
Not only literature, but the dramatic views from the Old and the New Town districts gave the city recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site too.
So, now let’s jump to see the Top 15 Places to visit in Edinburgh, you will be marveled with some of the places, buildings, and monuments the city has.
15 – Scottish National Gallery
The National Gallery of Scotland is in the heart of Edinburgh and houses one of the best collection of fine art in the world, including Scottish and international art from the beginning of the Renaissance up to the start of the 20th century. There is a special 60-minute trail of the gallery’s must see masterpieces which includes the Raffaello Santi’s “The Holy Family with a Palm Tree”, on the upper level and the Nicolas Poussin’s “The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist”, on the ground level.
Opening hours: Open daily, 10am-5pm, Thursdays until 7pm. More info on: National Galleries
14 – Scottish National Portrait Gallery
This beautiful neo-gothic gallery was opened to the public in 1889 as the world’s first purpose-built portrait gallery. It holds the national collections of portraits, all of which are of, but not necessarily made by, Scots. The Portrait Gallery’s collection is a resource of over 30 thousand images depicting the men and women whose lives and achievements helped shape Scotland. The gallery includes many internationally outstanding works of art.
Opening hours: Open daily, 10am-5pm, Thursdays until 7pm. More info on: National Galleries
13 – Camera Obscura
The Camera Obscura (Latin for dark room) it’s the oldest purpose-built attraction in Edinburgh and one of the oldest in the United Kingdom. It can be seen from outside by the view of an odd Victorian rooftop chamber. Inside, it offers a different perspective on subjects of real life on its six floors of hands-on exhibitions. You will see live moving images of Edinburgh projected onto a viewing table, pick people up on your hands and even make the traffic climb over paper bridges.
Price: As in Nov 2015, the standard admission is £13.95 ($21,10) for an adult
Opening hours: Open daily, 10am-6pm (Monday-Thursday) 10am-7pm (Friday-Sunday). More info on: Camera Obscura website
Greyfriars Kirkyard is a graveyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk, which is a church in central Edinburgh. The graveyard is associated with Greyfriars Bobby, the loyal dog who stood guard for 14 years over his master’s grave until his own death. Today, Bobby’s headstone is at the entrance to the Kirkyard. Considered as a must-see place in Edinburgh, the Greyfriars Kirkyard is also famous to be one of the most haunted places in the world. There are even nighttime excursions for the brave and curious souls.
11 – Gilmerton Cove
Gilmerton Cove is a network of underground passageways and chambers hand-carved from sandstone that runs beneath the streets of Gilmerton, a suburb of Edinburgh. This unique subterranean attraction has seven different rooms with rock-hewn furniture tables and chairs. The origins of the Cove, even after extensive archaeological and historical research still remain a mystery. Was Gilmerton Cove once a secret drinking den? A hiding place for religious refugees? A smuggler’s lair? A secret meeting place for the Hellfire Club or the Knights Templar? Theories include that it was the unique work of an 18th century local blacksmith called George Paterson.
Meeting Point: Gilmerton Cove, 16 Drum Street, Gilmerton, Edinburgh, EH17 8QH
Price: Adult: £7.50 – Concession: £6.50 – Child (5-16): £4
Opening hours: Monday – Sunday, 10am – 4pm – by appointment only
10 – Royal Yacht Britannia
Also known as Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia, it is the former yacht of Elizabeth II and today is one of the most well rated attractions in Edinburgh with around 300,000 people visiting it every year. There are five decks that are open to the public including the Queen’s Bedroom, the State Dining and Drawing Rooms, and the Royal Deck Tea Room. Also onboard you will find a former royal Rolls-Royce Phantom V, the same one that used to travel on the yacht.
Price: As in Nov 2015, the standard admission is £14.00 ($21,17) for adults and £8.50 ($12.85) for children
Opening hours: Open daily, and the admission time-table can be found on: Royal Yacht Britannia website
9 – St Giles’ Cathedral
St Giles’ Cathedral is the historic City Church of Edinburgh and it’s the main place of worship of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh.
Price: Admission to the Cathedral is free. Visitors are invited to make a suggested donation of £3.00 per person.
Photography: Permits for photography for personal use are available from the Information Desk, at a cost of £2.00 ($3.00).
Summer (May-September) Monday – Friday 09.00-19.00 Saturday 09.00-17.00 Sunday 13.00-17.00
Winter (October-April) Monday – Saturday 09.00-17.00 Sunday 13.00-17.00
8 – Princes Street Gardens
The beautiful Princes Street Garden lies at the center of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site, within New Town and Old Town outstanding Conservation Areas. Some of its attractions are the Scottish Monument, the Gingerbread House, and the magnificent Ross Fountain, a landmark example of 19th century French cast-iron work which features numerous sculptures.
Opening hours: you can find on the time-table here
7 – Royal Botanic Garden
Established in 1670, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is the second oldest botanic garden in Britain and is the main site in a total of four Regional Gardens. It is also among the world’s largest living collections of plants.
Price: Garden entry free with a charge for the Glasshouses.
Opening hours: Open daily (March to Sept) 10am – 6pm, (Feb & Oct) 10am – 5pm, (Nov to Jan) 10am-4pm. Closed 25 December and 1st January
6 – Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art One and Two
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art includes two buildings, Modern One and Modern Two. And both outdoor as indoors you can see beautiful works of art, especially on the building Modern One with its work of land-form in the front of the building.
Price: Admission is free. A charge may be made for special exhibitions.
Opening hours: Open daily, 10am-5pm.
5 – Royal Mile
The Royal Mile is a nice little street with lots of shops and a great view of the Edinburgh Castle. You will notice there is a unique charm on this street that attracts people there and it’s not only because of the shops. It’s advised to not stay only on the main street, there are also side streets that worth to give look.
4 – The Holyrood Abbey
Holyrood Abbey is a ruined abbey founded in 1128 by King David I of Scotland for the Augustinian Canons. Its name, Holyrood, means “Holy Cross”. The remaining walls of the abbey lie adjacent to the Holyroodhouse Palace, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland.
3 – Edinburgh Castle
With a lot of places and chambers to see inside and outside, this historic fortress dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh and it’s believed that the place where it lies has been occupied since 2nd century AD.
Opening hours: You can check here.
2 – Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat
Located just a few minutes walk from the heart of Edinburgh, Holyrood Park is a beautiful large open green area where you could quite easily forget you’re in a busy city. Some of the features of the park are the ruins of the 15th century St Anthony’s Chapel, the Salisbury Crags, a series of 150-foot cliff faces that rise in the middle of the park, as well as Duddingston Loch, a freshwater loch rich in bird life. But the best-known attraction of the park is Arthur’s Seat, a hill shaped like a reclining lion that is visible from around the city. It is the highest point in Edinburgh at 251 meters (823 ft.) above sea level, offering fabulous views of the city. It can be climbed from almost any direction, but the easiest ascent is from the East.
1 – Calton Hill
Calton Hill is famous as a fine viewpoint over the city. From there you will see major landmarks such as Arthur’s Seat, the length of Princes Street, the Edinburgh Castle and the numerous spires and towers of the city skyline. It also has numerous historic monuments and buildings as the National Monument that was inspired on the Parthenon in Athens, but differently from the one in Greece, it was never finished, leaving just the twelve columns you see today. Overlooking Edinburgh city center is another striking attraction: the Dugald Stewart Monument, one of the key structures on Calton Hill that helped the city earn the title “Athens of the North”.
Edinburgh is a great vacation destination at almost any time of year. However, the warm months of summer are the most popular, crowded and expensive time to visit, especially in August when festivals abound.
You may consider another season to go. Spring and fall can be ideal times to visit the city, as the weather is still pleasant, with fewer visitors, and affordable prices. Winter is the least popular time with cooler temperatures, but the prices will also be low and you won’t be lost among the crowds as in the summer.
If you plan to go in the summer you should book a place to stay before you go, otherwise, you risk find nothing or only overpriced places to stay.
The high season is from June to September
The low season is December to January
And the shoulder season is October to November and February to May
Are you thinking about going there? Take a look at Hotels Combined to see the best places to stay in Edinburgh 🙂